I’m back from a hearty three and a half day, triple pass medley – via Punta Olympica (4890m), Pupash (4050m) and Portachuelo de Llanganuco (4676m).
Heading south? If there’s one biking detour to do in the Cordillera Blanca, then this would have to be it. In fact, listening to other bike tourers better versed in riding the big mountains of South America than I am, this is an undertaking that ranks up there with the very best of Andean visuals. And given everything that still lies ahead (Bolivia, Northern Argentina et al), that’s really saying something.
Horseshoe in shape, the route crosses the main branch of the Cordillera Blanca twice. The brunt of the beast – the climb up and over Punta Olympica (4890m) – has recently been endowed with a fresh coat of pavement, an event I’d normally lament. But in the case of this particular pass, the tarmac is so very buttery smooth (at least before the vagaries of a few passing seasons have left their mark), the way is so bereft of traffic, and the scenery is of such an imposing, close-up beauty, that I’m very happy to have let go of my dirt-road bias for now. Honestly, Punta Olympica has to rank up there amongst my all time favourite passes thus far, Himalayas included.
Portachuelo de Llanganuco (4676m), on the return leg, is certainly no slouch either, boasting some 34, tightly woven switchbacks almost within eyeshot. And, let’s not forget diminutive Pupash (a mere 4050m in height), the hurdle that links these two goliaths via a little-used backroad – providing a pleasant interlude to the more obvious drama of towering ice walls and lofty mountain peaks…
Indeed, this is a ride of both great beauty and great numbers. More stats will thus have to be compiled. But in the meantime, I know there was a 2240m climb from 2650m to 4890m. Then a 1250m ascent from 2800m to 4050m. And another from 3400m to 4676m, all in consecutive days. Plus all the descents in between…
Thanks Ben for joining me on this one – it was great to share the ride with you.
Carhuaz to Punta Olympica to Chacas to Yanama to Portachuello Llanganuco to Yungay. 3.5 days or so. Lots of camping potential on the way up the passes, or cheap digs + food in Chacas and Yanama.